Illustrator Elisa Chavarri Takes Us Behind the Art of Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris

Released last fall from LEE & LOW BOOKS, Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris is a beautiful story of recycling, conservation, and family tradition. Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel’s mother is too busy preparing her weavings for the market. Ixchel first tries weaving with a variety of materials, but then she  notices the colorful plastic bags littering her neighborhood and suddenly has an idea that ends up benefitting everyone.

We asked illustrator Elisa Chavarri to take us behind the scenes of her art process bringing Rainbow Weaver to life:rainbow weaver cover

I worked digitally, but I’ve included an example of some of the sketches, and the early character design concept art, (before I figured out the appropriate dress), and some unused artwork/ideas.

elisa chavarri working digitally
Elisa Chavarri working on the illustrations digitally!
early character sketch
Early character sketch of Ixchel
sketch sample
A sketch sample with text
rainbow weaver spread
The finished spread!

Much of the artwork for the clothing was created collage style digitally, and I’ve included some of the photos I took of some of the fabrics I purchased. 


fabric 1
One of the fabrics I purchased
fabric 2
Another sampling of fabric
fabric 3
My dog loved the fabrics too!
Some of the fabric incorporated in the illustration

When I had questions regarding what the characters should wear, from what area they should be from, etc.  Linda’s [Marshall] friends from Mayan Hands, Brenda Rosenbaum and Anne Kelly were very helpful. Anne sent me a few photos for inspiration.

mayan hands image 1
Mayan weavers Diega and Karen Lily (2013)
mayan hands image 2
Mayan weaver Juana and her little girl

The rest of the Guatemalan fabrics that I photographed/scanned and used in the book I purchased from someone I contacted on Etsy, Debbie Maclin.  She also sent me some weaving scraps as references.

guatemalan fabric 1

guatemalan fabric 2

You can check out her site here.

You can purchase a copy of Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris here.

See the Teachers Guide here.

elisa chavarriElisa Chavarri is a full-time illustrator who graduated with honors from the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she majored in Classical Animation and minored in Comics. Born in Peru, she now lives with her husband and their daughter, cat, and dog in northern Michigan.